ATLANTA — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday called on nearly 700 conservative activists to hold other Republican presidential hopefuls accountable for campaigning on conservative values but abandoning those positions once they arrive in Washington.
Speaking to a packed and lively room at the RedState Gathering, a two-day conservative convention, Cruz said the news media should stop dismissing candidates from the right wing of the GOP, claiming that the best chance the party has to win back the White House is to nominate a conservative like himself.
“That quickly reduces to ‘We can only nominate someone who’s never stood for conservative principles,’” Cruz said. “And every time we do that, we lose.”
He also urged the GOP activists at the conference to scrutinize candidates’ records to determine whether they — and not just their rhetoric — truly represent conservatives.
“The men and women in this room can play a critical role leading the conservative movement in assessing the records of every candidate,” Cruz said.
Cruz spent only a small portion of his speech attacking Hillary Clinton and Democrats. He saved his sharpest jabs for establishment Republicans who he said “aren’t on our side.”
“Don’t just tell me how you’ve stood up to Democrats,” Cruz said. “Show me when you’ve stood up to your own party. Show me where you’ve stood up to Republican leadership and the Washington cartel and stood with the people.”
Cruz outlined the first five actions he’d take if elected, including launching a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, voiding the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and rescinding all of President Obama’s executive actions.
Cruz’s comments drew wild applause from the audience members, who at one point started chanting “Ted! Ted! Ted!” — the first such reaction for a candidate all weekend.
“Where are you on Common Core?” he continued. “Have you always opposed it or did you just magically oppose it the day you announced you ran for president?”
Cruz got the crowd angry as he announced a series of laws the Republican majority in the U.S. House and Senate had failed to carry out, including defunding Planned Parenthood, preventing Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s approval in the Senate and repealing Obamacare.
“They talk a good game,” he said. “But when the shooting starts, they end up cowering under the desk.”
Cruz also lamented the Republican takeovers of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 for not resulting in any major changes in the way Congress works. He asked what conservatives had gotten out of those victories.
“Nothing,” the crowd responded.
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.